If you are reading this then it’s more than likely you’ve been to a conference or event recently and been blown away by a great Prezi presentation and want to learn how you too can make a Prezi look amazing.

This post is designed to help you understand the approach you need to adopt to make a great Prezi.

At Eleven, we know only too well how to make a good Prezi because we do this day in, day out for our clients, so we thought we would impart some of our expert knowledge so you can create an outstanding Prezi to wow your audience.

Unlearn PowerPoint

You need to step away from the linear PowerPoint methodology. The Prezi platform works as if you were viewing a scene through a camera lens, incorporating movements like zoom, rotation, oscillation and animations. This movement helps to evoke emotions or feelings which can be applied to key messages and presentation topics.

So when we start to view the Prezi platform as a tool for evoking feelings and emphasising messages, it becomes quite clear that thinking like a PowerPoint presenter will actually stop you from making a great Prezi.

To do this, you need to follow one simple rule:

Think like a cinematographer.

Cinematographers are the people that work with film directors to take what’s in their head and get it onto screen. Their main skill is to take audiences on a journey, telling a story through a lens using tools such as framing, photography, colours and camera movements to evoke emotion. This is exactly what Prezi is, a storytelling platform.

So now that you know you need to move your thinking away from the linearity of PowerPoint and adopt the mindset of a cinematographer, let’s delve into some of the ways you can use elements of filming to deliver our Oscar-winning masterpiece.

Set the Scene

All good cinematographers use ‘establishing shots’ which set up, or establish the context for a scene by showing the relationship between its important figures and objects. You can use this technique to introduce your topic and the direction your Prezi will take.

This Prezi example below illustrates how setting the scene early on can highlight what your topic of discussion is about.

The above example shows the project topic in its entirety in a clear and simple way. You know what you are going to get before you’ve even started the journey.

Set the Tone

Much like a film, the tone of your Prezi presentation will establish expectations and reinforce assumptions about your topics or themes right from the start.

Consistent tone often determines whether your audience considers your presentation a success or failure. If you don’t get your tone right, it can make the audience feel disorientated and lost without actually being able to pinpoint why, it will just feel wrong. This can be a common occurrence in Prezis due to the overuse or incorrect use of the techniques (zoom, rotation and oscillation) and production elements (icons, typography and frames). People often make the mistake of trying to use as much of the tool palette as possible but don’t understand why their final piece lacks refinement.

How to use visuals and design to set a consistent tone:

  • Colours: Use vibrant colours to create a vibrant and energetic feel. You can use muted colours and neutrals to reinforce your message.
  • Palette: Create a colour palette for your Prezi. This is important for consistency. If you use too many colours your Prezi will feel confused and lost.
  • Contrast: Although most people think contrast is colour, it isn’t. Contrast is the relationship between colours, the state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition or close association. The films Sin City and 300 use contrast to create a consistent tone.
  • Light vs. Dark: Light can be used to express feelings for airy and openness, dark for intense serious tones. This will depend a lot on your overall message and how you want to deliver it.
  • Typeface and Fonts: Although Prezi comes with 16 default fonts, you can actually change them using CSS in the advanced options. Your typeface and font will also determine tone. As human beings, we are able to perceive personality in fonts and to form relationships based on that personality.

Where Prezi beats PowerPoint hands down is in its ability to use movement and animations to assist in setting the tone. There are a number of elements to consider in using movement to establish tone:

  • Opening Visual Sequence: The Key to Success example above zooms out and uses a visual metaphor to determine the topic, in this case, a key = the ability to achieve success.
  • Velocity of animations: If you bring messages and elements in quickly, it’s a different tone of conversation than if you introduce them at a more relaxed pace.
  • Speed of transitions: If transitions speed up (the time between content/messages), it creates a different emotional tone than if it moves out of frame smoothly.
  • Path of the animation: If the objects move in a consistent orderly fashion, it will evoke different emotions than an erratic motion path.
  • How the messages are revealed: Messages revealed quickly and rapidly will provide a different tone than slowly uncovering messages or content.
  • Number of objects in view: Messages delivered in isolation can often add more focus and demand more attentive tones.

In summary, tone can help your Prezi set the landscape of your industry, evoke emotion regarding a specific problem or burning issue. However, the message you are trying to deliver will inevitably dictate how to develop the tone which is right for your message and more importantly, your audience.

Less Gravity

More Galaxy

Introduce your characters

In the context of your Prezi, your characters are the specific messages that will be discussed with the audience. More often than not, PowerPoint presentations start with an agenda slide, but is it really necessary? Do you really want to give away the best bits of your presentation from the start? In film terms, it would be like screening a trailer right before the actual film, giving away spoilers and clues prior to the main event.

When taking your audience on a journey, it’s better to introduce characters bit by bit instead of all at once. Quentin Tarantino is known for the depth of his characters and their introductions into the scripts. Reservoir Dogs is an excellent example of the characters being introduced at the beginning, in brief, then gradually unravelling their backgrounds, uncovering their motivation, passions, personalities etc. throughout the film.

You can do this in your Prezi by introducing your themes in your establishing shot, then gradually uncovering more depth around those elements, exploring them in more detail as you progress through the presentation.

Think of each one of your messages as a character, with its own distinct features;

  • Personality: Some messages need to be delivered a certain way in order to be impactful.
  • Motivations: Some messages and topics need to prompt action from others.
  • Passions: Some messages need to evoke emotion to move others and encourage sympathy and empathy.
  • Backgrounds: Some topics have come a long way to where they are now, highlighting their background will give context to your message.

Creating Iconic Scenes

Cinematographers have an adept ability to use the camera to add to the script to heighten emotion and empathy.

Schindler’s List is a prime example of using camera work to heighten emotion or empathy to an already emotional subject.

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Bokeh refers to the portions of an image that are defocused or blurry. In the filmmaker’s toolkit, bokeh is not only an aesthetically pleasing quality, but it also allows the filmmaker to focus the viewer’s eye on an object or area of interest in the frame. In Prezi terms, it means clearing out those items which distract the viewer from the message or focal point.

Just think about the types of camera movements when you watch a film or a TV show and how each moment is emphasised by using camera techniques.

This is true of Prezi also. You can use these techniques when planning out your content and key messages:

Surprise = Make the content tiny and zoom in quickly. Viewers won’t see it at first and therefore the content will come as a surprise.

See the bigger picture = zoom out from the content so you can see the larger information to create the bigger picture. Works well if you’re discussing large problems or people who focus too much on the minutia.

Delve into a topic = zooming slowly into content gives the feeling that you are digging deeper into a topic and moving away from the previous topic. Think about how films start with an opening scene, such as an external shot of a building, then the next shot is inside the building.

image2Exploring a topic = panning across content shows linearity or exploration of a topic, picture how submarines explore shipwrecks by skimming over the surface, exploring each part but not necessarily in a straight line.

Change subject = If you want to completely change the subject matter or line of the topic you can change a background. This can be done with up to three backgrounds, but there is nothing stopping you adding multiple tiles to each background. Remember, there is a lot of canvas available!

The Money Shot

In film terms, the money shot originally meant the shot which incurred the most cost such as big explosions or car pileups. However, the meaning can now also include a scene with a sensational or a memorable sequence on which the film’s commercial performance is perceived to depend on.

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So how can I get that Prezi Oscar?

Using framing is a prime example of demanding attention for a specific message. This is where any visual clutter is removed from the background to leave the foreground in focus and in the centre of the frame. This is a great way to emphasise an important or emotive message.

Where a lot of films often need to blur backgrounds to achieve this effect, in Prezi, we can isolate text and images using negative space. Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in an image. Just as important as the object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition In plain terms it also helps the audience focus on a single object or message, with little or no clutter.

Conversely, you can be like John Woo and make a big impact through big statements. Think about some of the big explosions in films you have seen and the impact they have had on the story line. For example, let’s take the two major explosions in Star Wars. The first was Alderaan being blown to smithereens. This established who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. The last major explosion in the movie was when the Death Star was supposedly destroyed by the main protagonist, Luke Skywalker, who was definitely one of the good guys. Both the same type of sequence however, both had a very different impact on the audience.

In Prezi, you can use big sweeping movements focusing on big statistics and big messages to create a similar feeling.

Big sweeping movements can be achieved by creating large distances between your frames and moving content deeper into the canvas, try using both for maximum effect.

The Closing Scene

It’s finally time to consider the closing scene of your Prezi presentation. In PowerPoint terms, this usually involves going over old ground and covering off the key points that have featured. But we’re making a Prezi.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Save the biggest message until last! Some of the best movies use this twist as the final sting in the tail to wrap up the story and you can too. The thing about a good twist is that no one sees it coming. In Prezi you can actually hide information until the very last moment, so you can build tension and suspense in your story and then finish off with the big reveal or final twist.

This can be achieved through zooming out to reveal the bigger picture or even changing the 3D background to reveal something completely different.

Good presentations, like good films, are all about storytelling. The ability to take your audience on a journey, deliver messages that evoke emotion and move people into a different state of mind or even into action.

Like a budget independent film, you can on occasion see a real masterpiece of a Prezi presentation make it through the noise but it’s the game changers and epic stories which clean up at the awards and become immortalised for their filmatic genius.

Much like epic movie classics, outstanding Prezi presentations aren’t produced overnight. They are meticulously planned, storyboarded and designed, and often re-visited time and time again.

That’s a wrap.